Makaibari

Top choice tea estate in Kurseong

Image by Kay Maeritz Getty Images

If you like tea, you should visit this celebrated organic and biodynamic Darjeeling tea estate. Walk-in visits to the processing factory, with huge sorting and drying machines, typically last 30 to 45 minutes (mornings before 9am are the best time to see the production process). For a more in-depth experience, reserve a day ahead through Makaibari Homestays for a day tour, which includes a factory visit, a plantation walk with tea plucking, lunch in a local homestay, and tea tasting.

The estate is 3km southwest of Kurseong station down Pankhabari Rd, and 1km past Cochrane Place. It's a pleasantish walk down (traffic can be irritating) and an uphill walk back. En route, the partly overgrown St Andrew's Cemetery has poignant reminders of the colonial tea-planter era. Local vans will take you either way for ₹20 (shared) or ₹200 'reserved' (all to yourself/ves). In town, they start from St Andrew's Church, 250m down Pankhabari Rd from the station.

A shop at the factory gate sells Makaibari's prized teas (Silver Tips Imperial, the finest, costs ₹3500 per 100g!). Makaibari runs a homestay and volunteer programme from a separate office 150m down the road. Volunteers can find placements in teaching, health and community projects in March, April, May, October and November. A minimum two-week commitment is requested. Ask for Nayan Lama (if he's not in the office, ask at the factory-gate shop).

Another possibility here is early-morning birdwatching tours (₹500 for one or two people, plus ₹200 for each extra person). More than half the Makaibari estate is forested and there's a sizeable population of hornbills, among other birds (and some rarely spotted leopards).

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